Slideshow: Bird helps man, man cheats bird

The Latin name Indicator indicator­­ suits the greater honeyguide well. For perhaps millions of years, this bird has led humans to beehives tucked away in trees on the African savanna. To start the search, a person whistles to attract a honeyguide, which flies in the direction of a hive, chattering along the way to keep the human on track. Once the team reaches the hive, the human breaks it open, scoops out the honey, and leaves the honeycombs behind, supposedly rewarding the honeyguide for its help. But the partnership may not be as mutually beneficial as it seems. In Tanzania, researchers followed individuals from the Hadza, one of the world’s few remaining hunter-gatherer groups, on 40 bee-hunting trips. With the honeyguides’ help, the Hadza found hives about 58% of the time, more than twice as often as when foraging alone, researchers report in a paper in press at Evolution and Human Behavior. But the humans didn’t reward the birds for their help; in seven observations, they even went so far as to burn or bury the honeycomb, telling the researchers that they wanted to keep the birds "hungry" so the avian helpers would guide them to more hives. The researchers call this action a sign of social intelligence on the part of the humans. I call it cheating. So why do honeyguides keep helping humans? The scientists suggest there must still be enough fragments of comb left behind to make it worth the honeyguide’s while to keep up its end of the partnership. Check out the slideshow above for a step-by-step look at the honey-hunting process.